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Site: learnonline
Course: learnonline Help (Staff)
Book: OnTask
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Thursday, 14 November 2019, 8:32 AM

1. Overview

OnTask is a tool designed to improve the academic experience of students through the delivery of timely, personalised and actionable student feedback throughout their participation in a course

OnTask requires users to create Workflows, where they write simple rules to select a subset of students and create a message that is context-dependent for each student. Student and course data are automatically sourced from learnonline to provide users with a broad scope in their Workflow subject matter

Throughout this help resource, the example used will be addressing the student cohort from a course that are repeating that course and thinking about what data can be utilised to address this at risk cohort. 

Before using OnTask, it’s important to consider the following:

  • How large is my student cohort?
  • What are the key conceptual hurdles in my course?
  • How can I use the data to give personalised feedback to every student that ties in with these hurdles?
  • What is the purpose of giving this feedback?


The following figure shows an illustration of an OnTask workflow:

Example OnTask workflow

2. Video Overview

The OnTask project, funded through a Strategic Priority Commissioned Grant by the Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT) of the Australian Government, involved the collaboration of a number of institutions, including the University of South Australia. One of the collaborators, the University of Technology, Sydney, produced the following overview of OnTask:  

3. Set up: OnTask in learnonline

To use OnTask in your learnonline course, it needs to be added as an external tool. Follow the instructions below or visit our help page for a detailed guide on how to add an external tool.

    Tip: OnTask can only be accessed once there is students enrolled and the course is available to them

  1. Navigate to your course, and turn editing on
  2. Select what section you want the tool to be located and click ‘+ Add an activity or resource’  Add an activity or resource
  3. In the Activity and Resource list, find and select ‘External Tool’ 
  4. Click ‘Add’
  5. Name your activity e.g. OnTask
  6. In the Preconfigured tool list, select ‘OnTask’
    • Note: Preconfigured tools include the relevant configuration to ensure the tool works as expected. Unless you have a specific reason to make changes to the default settings you do not need to make any other changes to the settings.
  7. Click ‘Save and return to course’
  8. Click the Hide option for this tool to prevent student confusion as shown in the picture below:

hide external tool

4. OnTask interface

The first time you click on the OnTask link after enabling it in your learnonline course, it will launch into your workflow repository. This is your ‘Home’ section in OnTask and will contain all your workflows. Initially it will contain the learnonline course that you've arrived from in creating the external tool. 

Each workflow will represent each course you use OnTask in. The below picture highlights the different features of each workflow:

Workflow repository

5. Editing a Workflow

When you edit a workflow, you will have a number of options:

data tilematrix tilerules tilesummary tile


  • The data section is where all data is housed for this workflow.
  • The data that is already here is called Matrix Data and is the information. sourced directly from your learnonline course. This data is refreshed from  learnonline every morning.
  • Data can be added to this section through a CSV file upload.
       Tip: The data in OnTask from learnonline is refreshed every morning.


  • The matrix contains the matrix data from your learnonline course, displayed as a spreadsheet.
  • In this section and the Data section you can access the Activity Look Up to see the OnTask activity title equated with the learnonline activity title. 
  • You can add Custom Attributes here.


  • The rules section is where you create the tailored messages for your students.
  • The rules section acts as a repository for all the rules you have created for this workflow.


  • The summary section is a history of all student communications you’ve had through OnTask for this workflow.

6. Activity Look Up

Activity look up

When you are on either the Data or Matrix pages you can access the Activity Look Up section by clicking on the magnifying glass icon in the top right-hand corner. 

This will open a new tab that contains information similar to that shown in the below image. 

The OnTask system gives a different name to the activity names found in your course. The Activity Look Up is where you go to find the equivalent OnTask activity title for your learnonline activity titles. 

This will be very useful when you are at the stage of creating rules.

Activity look up

7. Navigating the Matrix

The Matrix page is where you can see the data from your course displayed. This is helpful in deciding how you want to use the data, for example, in the picture below the data table has been filtered to show the students who have been flagged for repeating the course. In the highlighted column, the data also records when the students first login was, or if there was no login. 

matrix table example

8. Creating Rules

    Tip: Deciding how you want to use the data upfront will assist the rule creation process

Rule creation is the means by which you send tailored messages to students.

Once you have a plan for what you want to communicate to your students throughout the study period, click on the new rule button.

plus new rule

Give your rule a name that is relevant to the subject matter you want to convey to your students, e.g. 'At risk' for a rule that is targeting at risk students.

The rule contains the same tiles that the workflow itself does, and in a similar way, editing the rule, edits the content of the rule.

8.1. Add Student Filter

A Student Filter allows you to restrict the cohort of students who will receive your message. If you do not use a filter, the rule you create will apply to all students in your course. You can further limit the filter by adding an additional expression or group.

If your filter contains two or more items, you can choose whether you want the filter to pick out both items (‘AND’) or if you want it to pick one or the other item (‘OR’).

In the example below, a filter has been placed on this rule so that the message will only be sent students who have been flagged for repeating the course.

student filter

8.2. Add New Conditions

Each rule relies on a condition that can be either true or false. The rule dictates what to say in your communication to students when the condition is true and what to say when the condition is false. It is crafted in a similar way to the student filter, however conditions are required in order to send a tailored message whereas a filter is not.

   Tip: Use the Activity Look Up tool on the matrix page to see the OnTask activity title conversion

In the example below, the condition is picking up the data for the student’s login history to learnonline, with the condition being set to equal zero (i.e. has never logged in).

add condition

8.3. Drafting your student’s tailored message

   Tip: The OnTask Rich Content editor does not have a spell check feature, before you send your message to students, proof read your message carefully!

The right-hand side of the rule creation page is where you draft your message to students. Utilising the information in the data matrix, along with the conditions you have created, and any filters you may be using, you can personalise what you want to say and limit it to who you want to send it to.

In the example below, the condition above, ‘First Login’ has been used to remind the students who have not yet logged in to do so and to encourage those who have. This rule also has the previously discussed Student Filter applied so this email is only being sent to those students who are repeating the course.

Click on the ‘Insert condition’ button to insert the following into your message:

RCE insert data

The ‘Insert Condition text here’ can then be replaced by the message you want to send to your students who make your first condition true e.g. they are repeating the course and have logged in. 

drafting message

The above example has a number of elements and rely on the filter and condition discussed in 7.1 Add Student Filter and 7.2 Add New Conditions:

  • Part a is used to insert any data from the data matrix into your message to students.
  • Part b is where the condition is incorporated into the message. You can include multiple conditions in a given rule.
  • Part c is where you save your rule.
  • Part d is where you can test sending your message without emailing the students.
  • Part e is the final step, where the rule is active, and will send the message to the students if they match the set cohort and conditions.

9. Glossary

Activity Look Up

This is the key used to show the OnTask activity alias for the learnonline activity titles. It is located by clicking on the magnifying glass symbol in the top right-hand corner on the Data and Matrix pages.


A condition is a data entry that when evaluated will either be true or false.

Custom Attributes

A Custom Attribute is a dictionary of pairs (name, value) so that when a name appears in a personalized text, it is replaced by the value. The attributes are synonyms that you may want to use in more than one rule.

Data table

A data table is a collection of data that is either automatically sourced directly from learnonline (the matrix data table) or manually uploaded via a csv upload into OnTask, it is equivalent to a spreadsheet.


Part of the rule and used to decide which learners will be selected and sent a message. Without a filter, all students will be selected, the filter allows a specific subset to be selected and contacted.

Matrix table

This functionality is to show the values stored in the data table, it is equivalent to a spreadsheet.

Personalised action

A text with elements that are selected and adapted to each learner based on a set of basic rules that depend on the student features stored in the data table.


A source that brings together the data table, the operations to upload the data, and the rules needed to create the personalized content.


Utilising conditional data, the rule forms the requirements that go into your tailored student message. You can have multiple rules per workflow.